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International Women's Day, Bangladesh (2005)
Feminism involves various movements, hypotheses and philosophies which are concerned with gender inequality, eliminating the oppression of women, and campaigning for women's rights and interests.

The history of feminism can be divided into three waves. The first wave was in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the second was in the 1960s and 1970s and the third extends from the 1990s to the present. Feminist theory emerged from these feminist movements. It manifests through a variety of disciplines such as feminist geography, feminist history and feminist literary criticism.

Feminism has altered predominant perspectives in a wide range of areas within Western society, ranging from culture to law. Feminist activists have campaigned for women's legal rights (rights of contract, property rights, voting rights); for rights to bodily integrity and autonomy, for abortion rights, and for reproductive rights (including access to contraception and quality prenatal care); for protection from domestic violence, sexual harassment and rape; for workplace rights, including maternity leave and equal pay; and against other forms of discrimination.

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First page of the first edition of Thoughts (1787)
Thoughts on the Education of Daughters is British feminist Mary Wollstonecraft's first published work. Published in 1787 by her friend Joseph Johnson, Thoughts is a conduct book that offers advice on female education to the emerging British middle class. Although dominated by considerations of morality and etiquette, the text also contains basic child-rearing instructions, such as how to care for an infant. An early version of the modern self-help book, the eighteenth-century British conduct book drew on several literary traditions, such as advice manuals and religious narratives. There was an explosion in the number of conduct books published during the second half of the eighteenth century, and Wollstonecraft took advantage of this burgeoning market when she published Thoughts. However, the book was only moderately successful: it was favourably reviewed, but only by one journal and it was reprinted only once. Although it was excerpted in popular magazines of the time, it was not republished until the rise of feminist literary criticism in the 1970s. The book encourages mothers to teach their daughters analytical thinking, self-discipline, honesty, contentment in their social position, and marketable skills (in case they should ever need to support themselves).

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Kayan girl, northern Thailand
Credit: Unknown; restoration: Diliff

The Kayan or Padaung are a group of the Karen people found in Myanmar and Thailand. They are known for a particular body modification, which consists of coiling lengths of brass around the neck of the women. The coils are first applied when the girls are about five years old, and the coil is replaced with longer coils as the weight of the brass pushes down the collar bone and compresses the rib cage, resulting in the appearance of a very long neck. The practice has seen a surge in recent years because the custom draws tourists who buy their handicrafts.

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Portrait by her mother Alice Pike Barney (1896)
Natalie Clifford Barney (1876 - 1972) was an American expatriate who lived, wrote and hosted a literary salon in Paris. She was a noted poet, memoirist and epigrammatist. Barney's salon was held at her home on Paris's Left Bank for more than 60 years and brought together writers and artists from around the world, including many leading figures in French literature along with American and British Modernists of the Lost Generation. She worked to promote writing by women and formed a "Women's Academy" in response to the all-male French Academy while also giving support and inspiration to male writers from Remy de Gourmont to Truman Capote. She was openly lesbian and began publishing love poems to women under her own name as early as 1900, considering scandal as "the best way of getting rid of nuisances". In her writings she supported feminism, paganism and pacifism. She opposed monogamy and had many overlapping, long and short-term relationships, including an on-and-off romance with poet Renée Vivien and a 50-year relationship with painter Romaine Brooks. Her life and love affairs served as inspiration for many novels, ranging from the salacious French bestseller Sapphic Idyll to The Well of Loneliness, arguably the most famous lesbian novel of the 20th century.

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Roza Shanina


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Barbara Ehrenreich
What we need is a tough new kind of feminism with no illusions. Women do not change institutions simply by assimilating into them. We need a feminism that teaches a woman to say no - not just to the date rapist or overly insistent boyfriend but, when necessary, to the military or corporate hierarchy within which she finds herself. We need a kind of feminism that aims not just to assimilate into the institutions that men have created over the centuries, but to infiltrate and subvert them.

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